Human trafficking schemes take many different forms and affect many different types of victims. The widely ratified Palermo Protocol requires governments to criminalize human trafficking and related offenses. Trafficking is a hidden crime whose victims are often
reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement. To effectively combat human trafficking, those responsible for identification, investigation, and prosecution efforts need a breadth and depth of expertise, including a familiarity with the spectrum of tactics used by human traffickers and the unique needs of victims. Successful identification, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking crimes requires substantial specialized expertise in detecting trafficking indicators, stabilizing and protecting victims, and investigating conduct that may span both domestic jurisdictions and international borders.
Dedicated prosecution units in many countries play a critical role in comprehensive anti-trafficking efforts. These units provide subject matter expertise in often-complicated human trafficking prosecutions and play a key role coordinating the variety of stakeholders across government who are needed to prosecute successfully the full range of human trafficking crimes. Dedicated units that have been properly trained in victim-centered, trauma-informed anti-trafficking strategies are better able to build trust with victim-witnesses and partnerships with victim service providers and advocates, navigate the complexities that often arise in the process, and ensure that victims are afforded access to protection and services.
In addition, prosecution units dedicated specifically to anti-trafficking efforts are able to bring about challenging trafficking prosecutions that set precedents and continue to build expertise year after year.
WHAT ELEMENTS ARE NECESSARY FOR EFFECTIVE HUMAN TRAFFICKING PROSECUTION UNITS?
» Dedicated personnel with advanced expertise focused on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting both labor and sex trafficking cases.
» Leadership roles in building strong anti-trafficking partnerships, including partnerships:
» within the criminal justice system (e.g., financial investigators, organized crime prosecutors);
» with other governmental and intergovernmental authorities (e.g. immigration agencies, labor officials, local governments, foreign law enforcement counterparts);
» with external stakeholders (e.g. nongovernmental victim service providers, victim and survivor advocacy groups, organizations serving vulnerable populations).
» Comprehensive training programs to deliver specialized training on identification, investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, including for police, border patrols, prosecutors, judges, government agencies, and social workers.
» Commitment to advancing approaches to human trafficking that are comprehensive, victim-centered, and trauma-informed.
» Focus on internal as well as transnational human trafficking cases.
» Nationwide geographical coverage to ensure consistency in responses and victim-centered practices across regions (not limited to the capital).
» Prioritization of efficiency to reduce the time needed to complete cases.
An increasing number of governments are developing and applying promising practices to improve the prosecution of human trafficking cases. In an effort to strengthen the criminal justice response, many countries now have dedicated prosecution units and courts, and provide specialized training for judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement, among others.
» In Guatemala, the Attorney General’s Office (Public Ministry or “MP”) expanded its anti-trafficking prosecutor’s office and inaugurated a new regional office in April in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala’s second largest city. The new office will cover nine departments consisting of 38 percent of the country’s population, including those closest to the Mexican border where traditionally there has been little MP coverage of human trafficking prosecutions. The new office will add 12 additional members to the anti-trafficking team.
Shifting their focus to more complex cases, the MP’s specialized office will carry out large-scale raids on human trafficking networks in conjunction with the National Police Force.
» Thailand established the Department of Anti-Human Trafficking at the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in October 2015 to be operated alongside the anti-trafficking division of the Royal Thai Police, and the Special Human Trafficking Division within the Criminal Court in Bangkok (established in August 2015). The trafficking unit takes on all tasks conducted by the OAG related to
trafficking cases and prosecutes them within the jurisdiction of the Bangkok Criminal Court, while local public prosecutors continue to handle cases in each province. Complex cases or those that may involve public officials can be transferred to the trafficking unit in Bangkok. The OAG trafficking unit conducts training for prosecutors in the provinces on techniques to prosecute effectively trafficking crimes, and as of December 2016, public prosecutors are required to file all trafficking cases to the unit for consideration.
» In the United States, the Department of Justice created a specialized Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (HTPU) within its Civil Rights Division in 2007 to consolidate human trafficking prosecution experience. HTPU provides subject matter expertise on forced labor, transnational sex trafficking, and sex trafficking of adults. The Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), created in 1987, provides subject matter expertise on the sexual exploitation of minors in any form, including foreign and domestic child sex trafficking, technology-facilitated child sex trafficking, and child sex tourism.